Ah, rumors. They never fail to attract our attention and stir up conversation.
In sports, no rumors get fans riled up as much as trade rumors, especially in baseball, when the July 31st trading deadline is one of the most recognizable dates on the calender.
We're only two months away from that special day, so let's take a look at some of the players in the National League rumored to be moving that are the most likely to actually find new homes.
Carlos Pena hasn't exactly had a stellar 2011, but he's certainly on the upswing.
After an April in which he hit a feeble .159 with no home runs and five runs batted in, Pena blasted seven home runs and knocked in 19 while hitting .258 in May.
The Cubs don't seem to be contending this season (hold your surprise), and Pena is only signed through 2011 anyway. It would make sense for them to try to move him before he enters free agency in the fall (and before the Cubs try/fail to sign Albert Pujols).
Pena offers a slick glove at first base and a commodity every team values: power. Recent history shows that teams take an interest in big bats, if only as half-season rentals.
Joel Hanrahan is having a season emblematic of the season his team is having: solid and better than expected.
The Pirates are 26-28 and currently fourth in the National League Central—yes, .500 would be a step up for them—and Hanrahan has had a key role in just getting them that far. He currently has 14 saves, a 1.46 earned run average and a highly improved 1.30 groundball-to-flyball ratio.
In addition to power, teams are usually looking for bullpen upgrades at the trading deadline. Hanrahan, while having a good season, was not very successful over his previous four seasons, so the Pirates could try to maximize his value now.
Joel Hanrahan is nice, but the real cream of the relief pitching crop this trading season will be Heath Bell of the Padres.
The writing has basically been written on the wall since this past offseason, since former San Diego slugger Adrian Gonzalez was traded to the Boston Red Sox. The Padres have not been able to replicate their magic from last season, currently standing at 24-32 and sitting in the National League West cellar.
With Bell in his walk year, and currently earning $7.5 million, it makes the most sense for he and the Padres to part ways. Some teams have already expressed interest in the reliable closer (who has 14 saves and a 1.96 ERA in 2011), including the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Like his teammate Hanrahan, Maholm is having his best season in the majors. His 2-7 record is deceiving, as the southpaw currently sports a 3.18 ERA with a .225 batting average against and only four home runs given up in 70.2 innings pitched.
That being said, one might think that Maholm is simply overachieving, so the Pirates moving him now—and avoiding his $9.75 million club option for next year—could be a wise decision, especially if they net the right prospects in their ever-continuing quest to rebuild.
I believe a few people have been talking about this one already.
The real question is, as the Mets continue to underperform and remain in the midst of financial crisis, which star(s) will be the one(s) to move. Between Reyes, third baseman David Wright and rightfielder Carlos Beltran, the dynamic shortstop makes the most sense.
Beltran and Reyes are both in their walk years, but Reyes is having by far the better season. Reyes is hitting .335 with 19 stolen bases and a league-leading 17 doubles and eight triples.
He could potentially be a player that puts a contending club over the edge. A couple of National League counterparts are currently in need of an upgrade at shortstop—the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants.
While David Wright is reportedly on the trading block as well, a number of factors—including his current stint on the DL and the fact that he's signed through 2012—still give Reyes the lead out the door.